Last Time, On The Ring Cycle…

Dying to see HGO’s Die Walküre but missed Rheingold? No worries.

Photography by Michael Hardy March 30, 2015 Published in the April 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Houston Grand Opera’s production of Die Walküre, the second installment of Wagner’s Ring cycle, opens this month.

What You Missed: Like everyone else sexually humiliated by a trio of polyamorous mermaids, Alberich made a great show of renouncing love. Realizing that this did not exactly qualify as revenge, he stole the mermaids’ gold, which they thought they’d safely hidden at the bottom of a river. (These are fresh-water mermaids.) Alberich forged the gold into a ring, one that gave bearers the power to rule the world, just like Beyoncé’s tiara.

Meanwhile, up on a mountain, Wotan, the king of the gods, congratulated himself on the completion of his swanky new castle, Valhalla. Unfortunately, in one of the worst real estate deals in all of prehistory, he financed his abode by promising to sell his sister-in-law Freia to the construction crew, two rather loutish giants named Fafner and Fasolt.

When Wotan’s wife Fricka learned her sister’s fate, she was not amused. He assured her, not terribly convincingly, that he’d been planning to welch on the deal all along, offering the giants something of equal value in place of Fricka’s sister. Freia was judged to be of some value (finally) and the only suitable substitute, it seemed, was Alberich’s ring, so Wotan and his sidekick Loge went on an expedition to the dwarf’s subterranean lair, where they tricked him—rather easily, as is the case with all mythic dwarfs—into giving up the ring. Then again, just before Wotan’s departure, Alberich did have the good sense to put a curse on the ring.

Back on the mountain, Wotan—ever the welcher—became enamored by the ring and decided to keep it. Once more, Fricka was not amused. Eventually, and only after the goddess Erda popped out of the ground deus ex machina-like and threatened him, Wotan did give up the ring, reluctantly handing it over to the giants—and just in time. No sooner was the ring in the giants’ hands than the curse—apparently of the time-release variety—took effect, motivating Fafner to bludgeon Fasolt to death and stomp off with his treasure. (Spoiler alert: he later turns into a dragon.) As the relieved homeowners at last entered their new digs, Wagner’s first installment came to a close. It was an ending straight out of House Hunters, but with better music.

HGO’s Die Walküre

Runs from April 18 to May 3 at the Wortham Theater Center. For tickets, visit houstongrandopera.org.

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